Intestinal Parasites: Signs You May Have One
Having intestinal parasites can be a scary thought. However, you are not alone! The idea that intestinal parasites only exist in underdeveloped countries is a myth. In fact, I often saw them in my thyroid and autoimmune patients.
In this article, I’ll cover the ten most common intestinal parasite symptoms. Then I’ll discuss how to get the proper testing and treatment.
What is an Intestinal Parasite?
A parasite is any organism that lives and feeds off of another organism. Intestinal parasites are tiny.
Usually, they are parasitic worms that feed off the material in your body.
Some examples of intestinal parasites include tapeworms, roundworms, pinworms, whipworms, and hookworms. Intestinal parasites come in many forms, so they can cause a wide range of parasite symptoms.
Some intestinal parasites consume your food, leaving you hungry after every meal and unable to gain weight. Others feed off your red blood cells, causing anemia. Some lay eggs that can cause itching, irritability, and insomnia.
If you have tried to repair your gut and relieve your symptoms without success, an intestinal parasite could be the underlying cause.
How Do You Get Intestinal Parasites?
There are a number of ways to contract a parasite. Undercooked meat and raw fish and contaminated fruits and vegetables (especially those you usually eat raw) are common culprits.
Swimming in lakes, ponds, or creeks can also lead to a parasitic infection. It is also very easy to contract a parasite when handling animals. Some parasites can even enter the body through the bottom of your feet — there is more to it than what you eat!
Once a person is infected with an intestinal parasite, it is easy to pass it along. If you have an intestinal parasite and do not wash your hands after using the restroom, you can easily pass tiny parasite eggs onto anything you touch — the door handle, the salt shaker, your phone, or other people.
10 Intestinal Parasite Symptoms
There are MANY different types of parasites that lead to a wide range of parasite symptoms. Parasite symptoms can often appear unrelated and unexplained. The 10 most common parasite symptoms include:
Iron-deficiency anemia is a common parasite symptom due to blood loss through stool and the parasite’s consumption of blood tissue.
2. Appetite/Satiety Changes
Never feeling satisfied or full after your meals, especially combined with weight loss is another common parasite symptom. As worms in humans feed at the same time as their host, it may cause extreme hunger. Nausea, gas, and reduced hunger levels are also signs of parasites.
Grinding your teeth in your sleep, also known as bruxism, can be a problem as the intestinal parasite infection leads to anxiety and sleep disturbances.
4. Digestive Woes
Unexplained constipation, diarrhea, gas, or other symptoms of IBS can actually be intestinal parasite symptoms wreaking havoc in your gut.
Fatigue, exhaustion, depression, or frequent feelings of apathy are not only symptoms of parasites, they may also be caused by possible malnutrition and anemia.
6. Joint and Muscle Pain
Pain or aching in your muscles or joints can be intestinal parasite symptoms. That’s because intestinal parasites invade joints, and also excrete toxins that cause inflammation, negatively impacting body function and movement.
7. Past Food Poisoning
A history of food poisoning and a feeling that “your digestion just hasn’t been the same since” are common parasite symptoms.
8. Skin Issues
Skin irritations or an unexplained rash, hives, rosacea, or eczema can be parasite symptoms as some host-parasite interactions remain in the top skin layers.
9. Sleep Problems
Trouble falling asleep or waking up multiple times during the night is a parasite symptom as certain parasites cause physical discomfort or alter your circadian rhythm.
10. Traveler’s Diarrhea
Traveling internationally and getting traveler’s diarrhea while abroad is a major parasite symptom.
Additionally, toxins that intestinal parasites release into the bloodstream can also lead to anxiety because they can interact with your neurotransmitters or blood cells, leading to mood swings. Other symptoms of the toxins that intestinal parasites release include trouble sleeping, skin irritations, and muscle pain.
Intestinal Parasites as a Root Cause for Hashimoto’s and Graves’
As I mentioned, I often saw intestinal parasites in my patients with thyroid dysfunction, particularly Hashimoto’s and Graves’. This is no coincidence, as infections are one of the five potential root causes of all autoimmune diseases.
A potential trigger for both Hashimoto’s and Graves’ is toxoplasmosis. This is a parasitic disease caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii found in undercooked pork and infected cat feces. If you’ve been infected, you might not have any parasite symptoms, or you may experience mild, flu-like symptoms.
In most people, the parasitic infection passes. However, it can sometimes linger in your system, triggering Hashimoto’s or Graves’.
Blastocystis hominis is another parasite that has been linked to Hashimoto’s. It is common in developing countries. The Centers for Disease Control says that this intestinal parasite doesn’t cause any harm.
Yet I’ve seen reports in which people treated for intestinal parasite symptoms also have their Hashimoto’s resolved. Because of this, I always recommended testing and exploring treatment options for parasite symptoms in my autoimmune thyroid patients.
The theories behind how infections trigger autoimmunity are complex, and researchers are still trying to uncover the exact mechanisms.
Special Cases: When Intestinal Parasites Are Helpful in Autoimmunity
While intestinal parasites are often a root cause of autoimmune disease, there are certain instances in which parasites are actually helpful.
Crohn’s treatment may involve the introduction of parasitic worms called helminths into the gastrointestinal tract to reduce symptoms. Helminths, such as hookworms and whipworms, have anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating effects. This treatment must be done under the close supervision of your healthcare provider.
How to Test for Intestinal Parasites
Many people are surprised to learn that the best way to test for an intestinal parasite is a stool test, not a blood test. Most doctors will run a conventional stool test if they see signs of parasites. However, these are not as accurate as the comprehensive stool tests used in functional medicine.
Conventional Ova (Egg) and Parasite Stool Test
Conventional stool tests can identify parasite eggs or a mature parasite in stool. Yet this test comes with many limitations. It requires three separate stool samples that must be sent to a lab for a medical technician to view under a microscope. Parasites have a unique life cycle and can rotate between dormant and active, meaning a technician won’t always be able to see a parasite in stool.
To identify intestinal parasites in this conventional test, a stool sample must contain a live parasite, which remains alive in transit to the lab. The technician must be able to see it moving. While this can certainly be a useful test, it does not identify dormant parasites. I often saw a high number of false-negative tests with this type of stool test.
Functional Medicine Comprehensive Stool Test
In my practice, I used a comprehensive stool test on all of my patients. It uses Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology to amplify the DNA of a parasite. This means that the parasite can be dead or in its dormant phase, and it will be detected on this test. Because this test utilizes PCR technology, it does not rely on a pathologist seeing a live parasite in stool.
How to Get Rid of Intestinal Parasites
Intestinal parasites attach themselves to your intestinal walls, so it seems only logical to starve them out by being a bad host and eating the foods they hate.
1. Eating raw garlic releases a compound called allicin, which kills existing eggs and prevents female parasites from laying more.
2. Coconut oil contains caprylic acid, a short chain fatty acid that stops the parasitics from growing.
3. Ginger can reduce the production of stomach acid, killing parasites and preventing infections.
4. Apple cider vinegar has been known to alter the body’s pH balance, which can contribute to parasite die-off.
Testing for Parasites
However, following an anti-parasite diet can only go so far. Discovering the species of your intestinal parasite is the first step to take to get rid of your parasite. The comprehensive stool test can identify seventeen different parasites. When I knew which parasite a patient had, I used a prescription medication to attack that species’ central nervous system.
Supplements for Eliminating Parasites
Sometimes, however, the parasite could not be identified. That’s why I formulated The Myers Way® Parasite Breakthrough® Kit to help promote and maintain a healthy and normal population of probiotic bacteria in your digestive tract. I designed this kit specifically to help tackle the issue of microbial imbalance, as well as help populate the digestive tract with beneficial probiotic bacteria that are normal residents in your digestive tract.
You can treat your intestinal parasite symptoms at home with the two powerhouse supplements I include in my Parasite Breakthrough Kit. Microb-Clear® creates an inhospitable environment for parasitic microorganisms and the most common pathogens present in the human GI tract and stomach while sparing the beneficial gut bacteria.
Bifido Maximus Probiotic 200 Billion CFU restore and maintain healthy levels of the good bacteria that keep infections in check, support a healthy immune system, and repair your gut.
As you begin your Parasite Breakthrough® treatment, you might immediately notice an improvement in your health. However, if you feel terrific at first, and suddenly have flu-like symptoms or are dealing with headaches, brain fog, or nausea, you might be experiencing parasite die-off.
Parasites can release neurotoxins, heavy metals, viruses, and other toxins when they die. If you have an autoimmune disease and your body is unable to detox, those toxins are left to recirculate as they wait to be detoxified. This can exacerbate parasite die-off symptoms such as teeth grinding, insomnia, headache, or fatigue.
Luckily, The Myers Way® Parasite Breakthrough® Kit is formulated to minimize these parasite die-off symptoms. There are also plenty of natural ways to support your detox pathways and minimize parasite die-off symptoms.
My objective is to empower you to discover the root cause of your parasite symptoms. From there, you can care for yourself at home with healthy food and supportive supplements.
Intestinal Parasite FAQs
Can an intestinal parasite go away on its own?
Intestinal parasites are difficult to get rid of, especially if you have a weakened immune system. Depending on the type of parasite, I recommend a combination of prescription medication and supplements to attack the species’ nervous system while helping maintain beneficial gut bacteria.
What are intestinal parasite symptoms?
Signs of parasites include anemia, appetite changes, digestive issues, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, skin issues, or sleep problems.
What foods should I avoid if I have an intestinal parasite?
Many patients suffering from an intestinal parasite may benefit from a parasite cleanse. This diet avoids greasy and processed foods, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and dairy.
Dr. Grace - Founder of The Gut Institute